Dolphin Tale 2: Movie Review
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It would have been easy for writer/director Charles Martin Smith to dial up a sequel that would keep fans ofDolphin Tale satisfied. A romantic crush develops between Sawyer and Hazel, who are now teenagers. Hazel’s dad falls in love with Sawyer’s mom. Winter the prosthetic-tailed dolphin provides enough aquarium hijinks to satisfy fans not interested in syrupy love plots. The musical score crescendos with each triumphant leap out of the pool. In the end, humans and aquatic mammals live happily ever after.
But that is not what happens in Dolphin Tale 2, opening in theaters nationwide this weekend. Instead, Smith delivers a workmanlike yet solid storyline that will appeal to audiences young and old for the inspiring life lessons it teaches.
THE MOVIE IN A MINUTE
Based on true events, Dolphin Tale 2 picks the original story up three years later. Sawyer (Nathan Gamble) is now a self-assured teenager who works daily with Winter at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium alongside his mentor, marine biologist Dr. Clay Haskett (Harry Connick, Jr.). Dr. Haskett’s daughter, Hazel (Cozi Zuehlsdorff) shares Sawyer’s affinity for working with sea mammals as well as a growing interest in Sawyer.
Both Sawyer and Winter face significant turning points in their lives – he must decide whether to accept an offer to spend a semester at sea learning marine biology while the aquatic mammal is grieving the death of her surrogate soul mate Panama, another dolphin housed at the aquarium.
As Winter becomes more despondent, Dr. Haskett and his staff desperately search for a USDA approved pool mate. Meanwhile, Sawyer languishes over whether he should leave the comfortable life he has created for himself between home and aquarium, for the unknown of an education spent at sea.
The answers to each of their dilemmas come in the form of a baby dolphin near death appropriately named Hope.
THE GOOD AND BAD OF DOLPHIN TALE 2
Many simple yet effective life lessons are taught in Dolphin Tale 2. Compassion for others (human and marine creatures) play a central role as does the notion that opportunity comes out of making difficult choices.
Another important theme presented is respecting the wisdom of our elders. On more than one occasion in the movie’s 107 minutes, Hazel’s grandfather (Kris Kristofferson) or the inventor of Winter’s prosthetic tail, Dr. McCarthy (Morgan Freeman), deliver simple yet effective truths that nudge people in the ways they should go.
Parents will be thrilled with the natural sense of moral decency that Dolphin Tale 2 conveys throughout. Fortunately, there are no risqué themes, violent sequences, or foul language to be found. The closest the movie comes to this is when Winter becomes agitated and swings her tail wildly, striking Sawyer in the face.
The simple yet creatively constructed underwater scenes are beautifully shot in varying shades of blue. Especially, touching is a scene featuring professional surfer Bethany Hamilton(Soul Surfer), who lost an arm in a shark attack several years ago, swimming majestically with Winter, both unencumbered by their disabilities.
For all the positives that the movie offers viewers, Dolphin Tale 2 does suffer from a few weak spots. Most notable are two scenes involving the aspiring teens. In one, Sawyer is giving a lecture to several marine biology professionals on the best methods for dolphin integration in closed aquatic environments. In the other, Hazel expertly scans complicated medical records for some of the afflicted dolphins. Huh? These kids are still in high school and no more than 16 years old. The scenes reach very far with limited returns.
Obviously developed for comic relief, a computer generated pelican named Rufus returns. Funny in spots, the aquarium’s resident nuisance develops an obsession with a sea turtle that is rehabbing from an injury. The situation eventually devolves from cute to ridiculously absurd.
Unfortunately, Oscar-winner Freeman and Ashley Judd (Sawyer’s mother) are largely underutilized in the sequel. They both deliver when called upon but viewers might leave the theater wanting more from the pair.
IN THE END
A shade darker than its predecessor, Dolphin Tale 2 is well worth the price of admission for its heartfelt dialogue, the valuable life lessons that it imparts, and the simple but highly effective underwater cinematography.
If you like seeing movies that make you feel good inside when you leave the theater than Dolphin Tale 2 certainly delivers.
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